(Panthera tigris altaica)
|Critically Endangered||N. Korea, N.E. China and eastern U.S.S.R||3-4 years|
|Number of Young||Gestation||Life Span|
|3||108 days||20 years|
There are eight recognised races of tiger. Of these, the Caspian, Bali and Javan races are extinct. There are believed to be only 30-80 of the south china tiger left in the world. The Indian or Bengal tiger is the most numerous but there are probably no more than 3,000. Amur tigers, like those at Marwell number between just 400-500 individuals in the wild. The combined wild population of all races of tiger is estimated at only 5,000-7,500 animals.
Tigers can inhabit a wide range of habitats, including tropical rain forest, evergreen forest, mangrove swamps, grassland, savannah and cold, mountainous country. The tiger is a solitary cat (spends much of its time alone) and each individual (or family unit) will have its own territory. The size of this will depend on the availability of food (prey species), water and shelter, and may reach 100 square miles for an adult amur tiger. Prey species include antelope, deer, and wild boar, but larger prey such as buffalo may also be taken. Tigers usually have one or two favourite dens in caves, hollow trees or dense vegetation. Cubs are born blind and are weaned after 100 days, but stay with their mother for 11/2 to 2 years, in which time they learn all the survival skills they will need.
For thousands of years man lived in harmony with the tiger, which was interwoven into the cultures and religions of the peoples with whom it shared its forest. The tiger was seen as the Guardian of the forest, a god-like creature who was worshipped and respected. Although tigers have always been hunted, sometimes for medicinal purposes, the population was never threatened with extinction until recently. With the advent of western values and weapons, much of the culture of the local people was destroyed, and with it the protection of the tiger was lost.
Today, tigers have two main threats - poaching and habitat destruction. They are poached mainly to satisfy the demand for oriental medicinal products made out of parts of the tiger, for example crushed tiger bone is added to wine as a general tonic, eyeballs are rolled into pills as a cure for convulsions, and whiskers kept to give courage. Huge amounts of money can be made by poaching and smuggling tigers.Habitat destruction is largely the result of increased demand for land as the human population grows. Financial problems in the countries concerned also lead to increased logging and agriculture. Habitat destruction not only removes the vegetation itself, which consequently affects the soil and water balance, but also removes the tigers' prey species.
Head, body, tail and limbs have a series of narrow, black, grey or brown stripes. On the sides the stripes are vertical. Prominent white spots on the ears are used for communication.
The Amur tiger is the largest of all the cats. A male Amur tiger can weigh up to 300kgs. Other tiger races are smaller.
There are now more amur tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. All the tigers at Marwell have been born and bred in captivity, and are part of a carefully controlled European breeding programme, designed to save the species from total extinction.
In the wild, tigers will gorge themselves when prey is caught and may not have the chance to eat again until the next big kill. In the zoo we feed our tigers on joints of meat, sprinkled with a mineral supplement. Each joint is cut according to the needs of individual tigers. They have a starve day once a week.